The history of the electric car technology began in the late 1800s. As Schneider writes, Henry Ford's wife drove electric cars, and the clean, quiet vehicles were cast as products for genteel society women.
In the late 1980s, General Motors Corp. teamed with a California company called AeroVironment Inc…
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Then General Motors built 1,100 of the two-seater EV1s beginning in 1997, pushing electric-car technology further than it had ever gone in a mass-produced vehicle. (Schneider 4)
The lead acid EV1 required a 5 to 6 hour charge, which offered a driving range of 55 to 95 miles. The nickel-metal hydride battery pack required a 6 to 8 hour charge, which provided a driving range of 75 to 130 miles. The vehicle was available for lease only, and monthly payments ranged from $299 to $574, with significant subsidies by GM and some governmental incentives.
At its time, the EV1 was a stretch well beyond existing technological boundaries. Every system was optimized for minimum energy consumption. It carried 23 patents with innovative approaches to efficiency and weight savings, breakthroughs in the use of electro-hydraulic steering and braking, and the first automotive application of a heat pump. Its drawbacks, however, were a restricted driving range and, as a sporty commuter car, seating for only two people - factors that severely limited its consumer appeal. (General Motors Corporation 3)
I want to draw your attention to the fact that General Motors has chosen a specific target group for the EV1. EV1 owners were a group of persons who cared about the environment and had enough money for it. Unfortunately, there were not enough of them.
General Motors leased only about 800 EV1s in four years, and it was not enough to establish commercial viability. But General Motors invested more than $1 billion to develop, design and build the car, install a charging infrastructure, dedicate a sales team entirely to the EV1, provide reduced EV1 lease payments, and to create and place award-winning advertising.
Although this investment did not make a straight profit, it was a good learning experience for General Motors.
Since then GM and other major automakers are abandoning their efforts to produce a battery-powered car for the mass market. Instead, they are focusing on hybrid vehicles that boost the mileage of a gasoline engine with the use of some electric power. Ultimately, the industry hopes - perhaps decades from now - to offer vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells, a fledgling auto technology that delivers power by converting hydrogen to water. (Schneider 4)
However other General Motors solution - transit buses with the hybrid propulsion system - were more successful at the market because of hybrid strategy focused on applying hybrid technology to the highest fuel consuming vehicles, such as transit buses and full size pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles. Hybrid buses deliver significantly better fuel economy than traditional transit buses and reduce certain emissions up to 90 percent.
Hybrid vehicles combine an electric motor with an internal combustion or compression ignition engine powered by gasoline or diesel fuel. The hybrid's key distinct advantages are barely measurable emissions, an established fuel infrastructure, and extremely high fuel economy - up to 66 highway mpg. Some hybrids drive exclusively using
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